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Soccer-Tuchel excited by Saul signing, says midfielder was Chelsea target for years

(Reuters) -Chelsea have had their eyes on Saul Niguez for many years and jumped at the opportunity to sign him on loan as the Premier League club needed to reinforce its midfield, manager Thomas Tuchel said on Friday.

Chelsea secured the late deadline-day loan signing of the highly-rated Spaniard with local media reporting the London club had an option to buy the 26-year-old for 40 million euros ($47.29 million) included in the deal.

“I was concerned going into the season with only Jorginho, Mateo (Kovacic) and N’Golo (Kante). Not because of a lack of quality or character… but things are unpredictable,” Tuchel told reporters.

“The Club World Cup is in December and nobody knows how many games (we will play). If you have one injured, one suspended, you’re in danger to overload players. So we were looking for an alternative and Saul was on Chelsea’s radar for many years.

“I was fighting for him at other clubs but it wasn’t possible. So when it was possible to have a loan, we were excited. He was the type of profile we need to give Jorginho and N’Golo the break they need.”

With Kante sidelined due to a foot injury, Saul could be involved when Chelsea host Aston Villa on Saturday while Tuchel confirmed Christian Pulisic is ruled out for 10 days with an ankle injury.

“We will try for N’Golo on Tuesday (in the Champions League), that looks good. Christian came yesterday on crutches,” Tuchel said.

Tuchel is another Premier League manager who could be without a Brazil international with defender Thiago Silva — who skipped World Cup qualifiers to avoid having to quarantine on return to England — ineligible to play after the country’s FA stepped in.

But the German boss said they were still waiting to learn if Silva, who has played 45 minutes this season, can play.

“Thiago isn’t officially out. The chairman is still in talks,” Tuchel added. “I’m waiting for the final decision. We will take the latest decision tomorrow morning.

“I don’t understand it and it makes no sense from whatever side you look. Did it make sense for Brazil? No. Did it make sense for us? No, because he may not be able to play two matches.”

Tuchel also hinted at a strike partnership of new signing Romelu Lukaku and Timo Werner, who struggled for goals last season.

“Timo likes to play alongside a reference and Romelu is our reference,” Tuchel said.

“The most important thing is he finds his confidence and joy. The players are in charge to take their position and fight for their position.”

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